American Sean Crocker shot a spellbinding joint course record 64 which left him in a share of first place with Spaniard Adria Arnaus on the second day of the season-ending Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final.
After making the turn in 31 with five birdies and one bogey, the 22-year-old Florida native carded a three-under par back nine which included an impressive eagle on the last to leave him on eight-under par after two rounds at Al Hamra Golf Club.
Crocker further strengthens his chances of securing one of 15 coveted European Tour cards for next season after coming into the tournament in 14th place on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah.
“My confidence has been high going into this week but there are also a lot of nerves because I’m right on the bubble,” said Crocker who made the cut at this year’s Open Championship.
“After my first round I put a bit of pressure on myself because the boys below me were playing well but my game is good so I just have to go out and play this week because everybody here is an amazing player.
“I’ve just got to play game, swing freely and not put too much pressure on myself this weekend.”
Arnaus gave himself a chance of getting his hands on European Challenge Tour silverware for the first time after shooting 69 in the northern emirate to leave him tied with Crocker at the top.
“I’ve played some solid golf and it’s been a lot of fun out there,” said Arnaus who has four top five-finishes to his name this season.
“It would be really special for me to end the season with a win but I’m trying not to focus on that and just keep doing the things that I’m doing.”
Meanwhile, Portuguese Jose-Filipe Lima occupies third place with Frenchman Victor Perez, just one shot behind the leaders.
Lima currently sits in 33rd place in the Rankings but a win in the northern emirate would guarantee his European Tour playing privileges for next season.
Niklas Lemke and Adria Arnaus carded rounds of six-under par to lead the way on day one of the season-ending Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final at Al Hamra Golf Club.
Swede Lemke, who currently sits in 37th place in the rainkings, came flying out of the blocks in round one as he made the turn in just 31 after picking up his first shot of the day of the par 5 third hole before sensationally making four consecutive birdies from the fifth to eighth.
The 34-year-old backed up his remarkable front nine with one birdie and eights pars on the back nine to sign for a 66 and put him in the hunt for one of the 15 coveted European Tour cards available to the top-15 on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah Rankings following the tournament.
“It was pretty solid round,” said Lemke. “My aim is to get to the top-15 and to do so I have to win the tournament or claim the runner-up spot. It’s good to know exactly what I need to do in order to achieve my goal.”
Spaniard Arnaus, who has already confirmed his European Tour playing privileges for next season, struck five birdies and a stunning eagle on the par 5 14th to sign for a 66 in perfect conditions in the northern emirate.
“We had a game plan from the off and we put that into place today,” said Arnaus. “I didn’t start the round in great form and wasn’t hitting it that well but I took advantage of my opportunities as my game grew throughout the round.”
Jordan Spieth admits it is bizarre being in Las Vegas for work rather than pleasure as he looks to halt an alarming slide down the world rankings.
By failing to qualify for the Tour Championship at the end of a winless season on the PGA Tour, Spieth did not play the requisite 25 events and was supposedly subject to a “major penalty” and fine.
However, PGA Tour chief of operations Andy Pazder said in September that the Tour and Spieth had “come to a resolution… in a way that’s going to be a win for our tournaments, our fans and golf in general,” which essentially translates to Spieth contesting the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and next week’s Mayakoba Classic.
“I’ve come to Las Vegas dozens of times now,” Spieth told a pre-tournament press conference at TPC Summerlin.
“I always love coming here. It’s a lot fun. It doesn’t really feel like you’re in the United States. You’re kind of in a different place here.
“But it is bizarre being here working. We landed last night and I’m like, ‘This is a little bit different coming in here and actually going to bed early and waking up early and coming out and getting work done.’ But I’ll enjoy the challenge this tournament presents this week for sure.”
Spieth became world number one in August 2015 and was ranked second at the end of 2017, but has slipped to 13th after a disappointing season by his standards, which included failing to convert a share of the 54-hole lead into a second successive Open title following a closing 76 at Carnoustie.
The 25-year-old admits he was struggling with his “C-game” for most of the year but is confident his fortunes can improve as quickly as they did following his last winless PGA Tour season in 2014.
“I can look at ’14 into ’15 and sit there and say, ‘You know, the second I get disappointed in dropping seven or eight spots in the world ranking, by August of the next year I was back to number one in the world,” added Spieth, who won in Australia and the Bahamas at the end of 2014 and then won the first two majors of 2015.
“That can happen again. You know, it’s quick how things can kind of turn and change when you get a little momentum.”